Isaac – seven weeks old
Isaac is now seven weeks old. This is an update of what has happened in that time. It’s a long read, so perhaps grab a cup of coffee first to keep you going and awake if you want to read all the way to the end.
Tegan recovered really well from her caesarean. In fact, she recovered so well and so quickly she somewhat shocked the midwives and the obstetrician and received some renown for being able to get out of bed and walk only about 12 hours after the operation and then move out of her surgical bed and into a normal room the next morning. Personally, this didn’t surprise me as she recovered quite quickly from her caesarean after Anastasia was born and this time around she wasn’t in labour for over 30 hours first.
The only complication, if it can be called that, in the first few days was that we had to start feeding Isaac formula in addition to breast milk on his second night. As was the case with Anastasia, Tegan couldn’t produce enough breast milk and Isaac needed additional formula to supplement what Tegan could give him. This came to a head on the second night when Tegan was looking at the colostrum she had been expressing and realised that she wasn’t expressing 3mL in the 40 minutes after a feed, but just 0.3mL. At least this time we were prepared and picked it up while we were still in hospital rather than several weeks later, as we did with Anastasia. Consequently, Isaac lost only about 200g by the end of our stay in hospital, in contrast with Anastasia who lost about 700g in her first week and who didn’t make back her birth weight until she was four weeks old.
While it looked like Tegan and Isaac were on track to leave hospital on the Friday (after Isaac was born on the Monday), one other issue arose. As Tegan and Isaac were of different blood groups, Tegan had a series of Anti-D injections during pregnancy and after Isaac’s birth to prevent any disease or rejection issues associated with one being rhesus positive and the other rhesus negative. However, Tegan’s blood test after birth showed no sign that the medication had taken effect in her system – it was as if she had never had any of the injections. Further blood tests revealed that there had been a bleed from Isaac into Tegan in utero (a feto-maternal bleed, as we discovered it is called) and this had used up all the efficacy of the injections Tegan had been given. More surprisingly, we discovered that the medical staff treat it as a cause for some concern if there has been a bleed of more than 6mL, however the blood tests showed that there had been a 60mL bleed. This caused Tegan to become even more of a medical celebrity among the midwives and obstetricians – the midwives had never seen a feto-maternal bleed that used up the efficacy of the anti-D injections before and the obstetricians were stunned that there could be such a large bleed while both Tegan and Isaac were both healthy and there had been no emergency. One of the obstetricians who came in on the weekend said that a bleed of that magnitude would normally be associated with a serious issue at birth or a detached placenta or something like that and that it would be a medical emergency and the whole hospital would have known about it. Both the obstetricians and the paediatricians we spoke to thought the blood test results about the quantum of the bleed must have been wrong as both Tegan and Isaac were completely fine (although Tegan’s regular obstetrician now thinks it might have been correct and reflected a slow bleed, perhaps from the umbilical cord, throughout the pregnancy).
Nevertheless, Tegan required a top-up of the anti-D medication, but because of the feto-maternal bleed they needed to give her a special one that was delivered via an IV drip and, because the bleed was so significant, they needed to give her a larger dose of this medication than was available in Canberra and the hospital had to fly additional supplies down from Sydney. And when it finally arrived, Tegan had a bad reaction to it, experiencing bad pain and extreme cold shivers, resulting in the midwives delaying subsequent doses. The end result: while it all worked out, we didn’t get out of hospital on the Friday, but on the Saturday afternoon instead. Not too bad, but Tegan was very much ready to go home at that point.
On Tegan’s first night back home, we put on a great antipasto spread for her filled with lots of things that she hadn’t been able to eat during the pregnancy, including brie, blue and other soft cheeses, salami, prosciutto, smoked salmon, a good red wine – and of course other things he could eat but that were yummy anyway, such as olives and good sourdough bread from Silo. My Dad and I had been to the markets on Saturday morning and really went overboard with the range of delicacies we picked for dinner.
Anastasia coped very well having her little brother arrive home. She certainly delighted in the concept of being a big sister, although sometimes didn’t seem all that keen on Isaac being there. During week one in hospital she once asked us where Isaac’s mummy and daddy were and was at first slightly confused that her Mummy and Daddy were also Isaac’s mummy and daddy. On a couple of occasions she also said that she wanted him to go back, or asked us to put him down and pick her up. However, there really wasn’t too much of this or other attention-seeking behaviour and she was lovely to Isaac and delighted in giving him little kisses and cuddles.
On night one that Isaac was home, when settling Anastasia in bed ready for sleep I explained that Isaac was going to wake up during the night and he would probably cry and that if he woke her up she should just go back to sleep. She agreed to this and, quite surprisingly, she also did it. Even till now, Anastasia has never once gotten up during the night when Isaac has woken up crying and she has reported in the mornings on a few occasions that he did wake her up during the night. However, I soon had to amend those instructions. For a couple of mornings, when Anastasia woke up she sat on her bed bawling her eyes out until I came to see her. This was very unusual as she normally gets out of bed on her own and comes into our room to see us. It took me a couple of days to realise that when I had told her that she should go back to sleep if Isaac woke her up, she thought she was also being instructed to simply go back to sleep in the morning as well. Once I explained that she could get up in the morning as normal and that it was only during the night when it was dark that she needed to go back to sleep on her own she was fine and her night-time sleeping and morning waking routine returned completely to normal.
On the Tuesday of our first week at home, Anastasia and I drove up to Sydney to pick up Larissa and Matt and bring them back to Canberra for a visit. This was an opportunity to give Tegan and Isaac a quiet day at home together and also to do some more kilometres in the car, which perversely we needed to do in order to avoid a significant additional tax bill (linked to the salary sacrifice lease arrangements for the car). We had a lovely couple of days with Larissa and Matt before Anastasia and I drove them back to Sydney again on the Thursday. Anastasia did so well travelling in the car – I really wasn’t sure how she would go travelling in the car for five hours per trip to Sydney and back, but she handled it really well and seemed to have a good time. Of course, brief stops at the playground at McDonalds at Sutton Forest plus spending a couple of hours on each trip at Grandma’s house didn’t hurt either.
Unfortunately, just as Anastasia and I were leaving Sydney to drive home, Tegan called to say that she was in extreme pain and shortly afterwards her siblings took her to hospital, where she was admitted via the Emergency department and later that night ended up back in the maternity ward. It turns out that Tegan had endometritis – an infection – associated with the caesarean operation. As one of my friends who is a doctor put it to me, there is always the risk of such things following any invasive operation as we can sterilise equipment just fine, but we can’t take someone’s skin off and heat it up to several hundred degrees celsius in order to kill all bacteria, etc. So, Tegan and Isaac ended up staying in hospital again for about another day and a half, being discharged again on the Saturday morning.
At two and a half weeks old, Isaac weighed 4.25kg (350g more than at birth) and was 56cm long (3cm longer than at birth). In short: he was growing beautifully. After recovering from her infection, Tegan was also doing quite well and we really felt like we were getting back on top of life this week. Isaac started getting into a bit more of a pattern, feeding about every three to four hours and allowing Tegan and I to get a bit more sleep – if you can call 5 hours sleep in no more than two hour blocks enough. At each feed Tegan was breast-feeding, then giving a bottle and then expressing breast milk. This made each feed quite time consuming, but at least Isaac slept lots and was generally quit easy to manage.
We still had people visiting us, or we went out to visit people, pretty much every day. This was lovely, but a little draining in some ways too. We came to quite relish our Mondays and Fridays when Anastasia was in child care, which gave Tegan and I a bit more chance to rest and recover and to focus on Isaac.
While Anastasia has been delightful and has coped so well in having a new little baby in the house, at the end of the day she is still a hyperactive and somewhat attention-seeking (in other words, completely normal) two year old and days spent with her can be quite draining. Over these few weeks though Anastasia and I have bonded particularly well, as it effectively became my job to look after Anastasia while Tegan looked after Isaac. This typically started at about 7am (give or take half an hour) when Anastasia woke up. We’d go downstairs to have breakfast and try to allow Tegan to get an extra hour or two of sleep. Anastasia and I also did plenty of other things together, such as going to ‘her little park’ across the road from our house, playing with her trains, watching her jump on the trampoline, going to reading time at the local library, an odd trip to Monkey Mania and the like. In addition, Anastasia came with me on basically every occasion that I left the house, whether that was going to the supermarket, taking a trip to buy coffee or occasionally stopping at a cafe for an espresso and a hot chocolate (I’m sure you can guess who had which one).
Bess (Tegan’s cousin), Steve and Cameron came to stay for 4-5 days and we had a lovely time catching up with them and introducing them to Isaac.
Sometime around week 3-4 we also hit a bit of a turning point, with Isaac sleeping less and spending much more time awake and crying. Around this time we felt that every second day was a good one, but every other day was marked by several hours of crying. Not fun. We remarked on this to the mother and child health nurse that we saw at the local clinic in Dickson and while she sympathised, she effectively said that if the issue was baby colic that there was not much we could do other than wait it out. So we did. Tegan took Isaac for walks up and down the street or around the block to settle him and I discovered that he seemed to settle a bit better when we walked up the stairs with him, so we started doing that also. Tegan commented on Facebook at the time:
“My new fitness regime: ‘baby settling’, conducted with 5kg weight & audio motivation. First, swaying to warm up, then lunges from side to side. Next, light lunging walk with optional singing. Follow with indoor stair climb, with audio motivation to ensure adequate pace and repetitions, then progress to outdoor distance walk. Finally, once audio motivation has ceased, cool down gently in the rocking chair.”
Fortunately, Isaac was still sleeping quite well at nights – often going 4 to 5 hours between feeds after about 10 or 11pm. At least this gave us the chance for some good sleep.
Weeks 5 and 6
Isaac cried. Lots. The leaders at Anastasia’s child care told me that when they ask her what Isaac does, she tells them that he sleeps and cries all the time. Nevertheless, she is still a lovely big sister to him, delighting in giving him cuddles, kisses, patting him, putting a dummy in his mouth if it has fallen out and just generally being lovely.
Around this time Tegan first stopped breast feeding, but still expressed breast milk after every feed, as Isaac just wasn’t coping in attaching to the breast. It was as if he knew that irrespective of how much he worked at sucking on the breast that another, easier source of food would soon be arriving, so just wasn’t prepared to work at breast feeding. Feeding him just formula and expressed breast milk did make feed times a bit easier, as there was one less thing to do. However, within a week or two of this, Tegan’s milk supply completely dried up. There hadn’t been much there to start with and it dried up more quickly than it did after Anastasia was born (with much difficulty and effort, Tegan kept breast feeding to a small degree for about 13 weeks last time). While this was upsetting to Tegan it wasn’t unexpected and there are upsides: Tegan can have a glass of wine whenever she like and can eat whatever she likes without worrying about possible reactions that Isaac might have, for example, to spicy food obtained second hand via breast milk.
By week six things were becoming quite tough overall – rather than every second day being a good one, it felt that every evening was a bad one. In the previous weeks Tegan had taken Isaac for a walk at night in order to get him to settle – popping him in the baby sling and walking around the block (a good way to get some exercise and meet more neighbours, Tegan discovered). However, while previously Isaac had often settled before Tegan got to the corner, by this week he was taking longer and longer each night to settle – getting to the point where Tegan was walking almost completely around two blocks before he even stopped screaming. Week six was also tough because we all became sick – Tegan, Anastasia and I all had a nasty cold which quite knocked us around.
Isaac, despite the crying, continued to grow like a champion. At five and a half weeks old, he weighed 4.9kg and was 58cm long.
Yet more crying. At this point we were all quite sick with colds and Anastasia, Tegan and I all ended up on antibiotics to treat chest infections. With severely reduced operating capacity and two cranky children this was the point at which we felt that things were really getting away from us. The Thursday of this week was a particular low point: Isaac had his six week immunisation injections at 3:15pm and cried constantly from then (in fact, from before they were even given) until sometime around 9pm. Tegan’s Mum had been around that day and in the evening they went out together to the Chemist to get some anti-colic medication, which at that point didn’t overly help, but they also brought back some Vietnamese takeaway for dinner, which was very helpful. By 8:15 when Isaac just wasn’t at all settling no matter what we did, Tegan’s sister, Bec, bless her heart, went out to the chemist for us and bought some Baby Panadol (we think he may have had a headache as a side effect of the immunisation injections). This did help and within half an hour Isaac had settled and soon after went to sleep and slept decently well that night.
Nevertheless, while Isaac has been a bit better since that night, we’re all tired and weary and the very frequent crying is exhausting and emotionally draining, particularly for Tegan. People have been very lovely to us though – people from church have bought us meals and my parents helped out quite a bit in the time they were here on the weekend.
More positively, Isaac is becoming more alert and interested in what is going on around him. Over the past couple of weeks he has demonstrated that he is able to track faces and will often turn around to watch whoever is speaking to him, or just to look at one of us as we move around. Anastasia loves this – she has a couple of times played it as a game moving from Isaac’s left to right and calling to him until he turned to look at her.
Isaac also went back to the paediatrician today, who pronounced a very clean bill of health and commented several times about how big Isaac is. And he really is growing well – he is up to 5.42kg, is 60cm long and doesn’t have any of the hip issues that Anastasia had from birth. He has also been eating more than usual over the past few days – growth spurt coming, perhaps? The paediatrician also said that the crying sounded to be within the bounds of normal, which I guess is some comfort – but as one of our friends said to us, that’s easy for him to say as he doesn’t have to live with it.
- Overall, Isaac is doing quite well. He’s feeding well and growing well. He’s alert and interested. But he does have a set of lungs on him – he is so much louder than was Anastasia or any other baby in the family. Despite the difficulty, we are still thankful to God for giving him to us, even if we pray every day that he won’t cry so much.
- The hardest thing about the crying is that it keeps going and we don’t know what is causing it or how to fix it. When Anastasia was a baby she did cry, obviously, but it always seemed to be for a reason – either she was hungry, cold, hot, tired or needed a clean nappy. Once we figured out what was wrong and fixed it, the crying stopped. What’s hard about Isaac’s crying is that it goes on for so long without there being anything obviously wrong and none of our attempts to fix things seem to help. For Isaac’s sake it is fortunate that Anastasia wasn’t like this, as we think that if Anastasia had cried like Isaac that there never would have been an Isaac.
- That said, we actually find the crying easier to deal with than we did when Anastasia was little. When she cried we would immediately jump to action stations and it became our overwhelming imperative to stop the crying as quickly as possible. With Isaac, the imperative is still there but much less strong. We can cope with crying lasting for much longer before it becomes stressful.
- When I say above that Isaac cries continually for hours it’s not quite true. He actually never cries for more than about 30 or 40 minutes before settling. It’s just that on occasions like last Thursday he only settles for a few minutes or less before commencing crying again for another extended period.
- Tegan and I are both so glad and so fortunate that I’m on leave from work. 7 weeks down and seven weeks to go. I still have more leave to go than I have ever had in a single block of leave ever in the past. I think it will be quite difficult going back to leave in late May, but hopefully home life will have settled down quite a bit by then. In the meantime, I also hope to make a bit more use of my time off to accomplish some projects that I’ve been aiming to do but have not had time, including some woodworking, gardening and photography projects. But this all depends on health, energy levels and how well everything goes in the next few weeks.
- We’re up to Sydney for a week next week, which will involve at least one night off and away from both children (as we have tickets to see BB King perform at the State Theatre) and we’re hoping that this will be a good chance for Tegan and I to unwind and recover a bit.